Definition Essay- Joseph Passalacqua

Spending For Nothing

America’s spending on education is the highest on the planet.  Spending roughly eleven thousand dollars per year, per student, Americas education system is considered “average” by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD.)  The OECD, which holds the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) every three years, evaluates the knowledge and skills of 15 year olds from 70 different countries around the world.  On a scale of 0-1000, the United States’ scores were considered average with scores of 487, 500 and 502 in math, reading and science, respectively.  Our scores can be compared to those of Poland, who spends less than half of what America spends per student.

America’s spending of roughly eight hundred billion dollars per year shows that more money does not relate to better education.  Japan and South Korea have the highest scores on the PISA.  Both countries spend significantly less on education with Japan spending roughly one hundred sixty billion per year, eight thousand per student, and South Korea spending roughly sixty-one billion per year, and seven thousand per student. Japan has succeeded in motivating their students to learn and teach them effective study habits as well as keeping students motivation high.  Their teachers are considered competent, committed and well-respected.  Japans cultural focus on education can be one of the main reasons their scores are high, compared to the US.

A lot of the funding given to schools is from property taxes.  If a school exists in a low-income, impoverished neighborhood, the school will be given less funding.  Eleven thousand dollars is only the national average for education per student.  Wyoming, spending roughly eighteen thousand dollars per student, is ranked twenty-ninth in test scores among the fifty states.  Utah, spending about seven thousand dollars per student, the lowest spending among the fifty states, is ranked twenty-seventh.  New Jersey, spending roughly fifteen thousand per student, is ranked second among the fifty states.  All three states are spending different amounts of money, yet there is no pattern present that determines that a higher cost of education means better grades.  Why spend so much money on education if it’s not helping our students?

Our money is not put where it should be either. Most of the money given out by the government goes to schools with high-test scores.  This is because of the No Child Left Behind act (NCLB.) which grants money to schools whose standardized test scores are high.   This system encourages competition between schools, but gives an advantage to those who have the money to educate.  While we do spend an obscene amount of money on education in comparison to other countries, we don’t spend the money where it needs to go.  We need to provide money and resources to students who need the money to further their education.  Not only that, but our country has shown a pattern of only getting rid of underperforming teachers, vs. other countries who focus on finding better teachers to educate students to the best of their ability. A possible route to better education would be to spend money on educating the teachers themselves.  Better educated teachers, means better teaching.


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Huffington Post., 7 Dec. 2010. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. <;.

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One Response to Definition Essay- Joseph Passalacqua

  1. davidbdale says:

    Hey Joe!
    As you may recall, I comment on your posts as I read them, to give you “live” feedback from a reader of your argument as it unfolds. I hope you find that helpful.

    P1. Couple mechanical things right away, Joe.
    1. why “the planet”?
    2. Your “spending” phrase is a dangerous way to start a sentence. At best, it should be followed by something the system “does,” instead of something it “is considered.” These phrases are best avoided. If spending is the important subject, then make it your subject:

    At eleven thousand dollars per student per year, America spends more on education than any other country, but its results are considered “average” by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

    Notice also that the first clause counts spending and the second characterizes the results. I don’t know yet how the results are quantified, but I do know in your sentence “average” sounded like a measure of spending, not quality. The sentence above fixes that and gets the period outside the parenthesis, where it belongs.
    That’s the second time you said “considered average.” The first time might have been opinion, but the second time, with numbers, they measured average (no longer considered).

    Our scores “can be compared” to any country’s scores, Joe. You mean they are “comparable” to Polands, which means similar to.

    Poland is not a “who.”

    P2. This paragraph I hope to be able to concentrate on argument instead of mechanics.

    While the eight hundred billion is a big, impressive number, it’s completely meaningless in a comparison with Japan and South Korea; only the spending per student means anything. Still, you could use that big number to prove something: it’s eight times the amount of money it would cost to provide health insurance for every uninsured American, for example. Or it’s eight times the annual cost of the Iraq war at its peak. Something like that. Or, just to be snarky: “It’s hard to believe we can’t do better than ‘average’ for 800 billion dollars a year!”

    Pay careful attention to your sentences, Joe. There are two motivations in “Japan has succeeded in motivating their students to learn and teach them effective study habits as well as keeping students motivation high.” The sentence could more effectively be phrased: “Japan motivates it students and teaches them better study habits for 25% less money than we do.”

    P3. Please eliminate all unnecessary if/then constructions, Joe. Instead of “If a school exists in a low-income, impoverished neighborhood” (obviously, many do); just say “Schools in low-income neighborhoods receive less funding.”

    What does “only the national average” mean?

    Your argument would be much easier to follow if you told is the conclusion first, Joe: spending does not correlate with test score results. Then we’ll know what to concentrate on when we read the state scores. Otherwise, we sort of zone out, not knowing why it’s important.

    P4. So far, you’ve done a good job of disconnecting spending from results. Both as a country, and as a collection of states, we demonstrate that higher spending doesn’t improve quality. Now you’re about to prove conclusively that NCLB allocates resources to schools that don’t need them (since they’re already achieving the best scores). It doesn’t prove what you say, I think. You can’t have it both ways. You say it sends money to schools that are already rich. But you’ve unhinged the spending=results connection in your first argument, so you can’t re-hinge them now. You can prove, though, as I’ve suggested, that the extra money goes to schools already achieving well.

    Do you have evidence that under-performing teachers are not as well educated, Joe? You need it if you’re going to argue that we can improve teachers by giving them more education.

    What have you been defining, Joe? The answer is unclear. May I suggest that you revise to make it clear you want to define “effective education,” or something similar, in part by demonstrating that the US system doesn’t deliver it? Test scores may be a good way to measure education quality (or they may not be), but it certainly makes no sense to keep spending more money on education without any measurable results. So you could either argue that our system is “not effective education” because of its low scores relative to the planet, or because of its much higher spending without results. Then, if you wanted to, you could offer a better example of what “effective education” would look like to you.

    I’d very much like to know what you find helpful about these notes, Joe. Grade Recorded. Thanks.

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